Jeff Bezos (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

There's a new an­ti-ag­ing up­start in town — and it's re­port­ed­ly backed by Ama­zon bil­lion­aire Jeff Be­zos

Go­ing to space wasn’t enough. Mid­dle-aged bil­lion­aire Jeff Be­zos wants to ex­tend hu­man life — and to do so, he’s re­port­ed­ly back­ing the lat­est en­trant in­to Sil­i­con Val­ley’s bur­geon­ing race to slow ag­ing.

A stealthy biotech called Al­tos Labs launched ear­li­er this year with at least $270 mil­lion and a slate of longevi­ty ex­perts on board to pur­sue bi­o­log­i­cal re­pro­gram­ming tech­nol­o­gy, ac­cord­ing to a scoop by the MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Re­view. Un­named sources told the Tech­nol­o­gy Re­view that Al­tos will es­tab­lish sites in the Bay Area, San Diego, Cam­bridge, UK, and Japan. In ad­di­tion to Be­zos, the op­er­a­tion is al­so ru­mored to be backed by Russ­ian bil­lion­aire Yuri Mil­ner, who’s in­vest­ed in Face­book and Twit­ter.

Manuel Ser­ra­no

“The phi­los­o­phy of Al­tos Labs is to do cu­rios­i­ty-dri­ven re­search,” Manuel Ser­ra­no, of the In­sti­tute for Re­search in Bio­med­i­cine, in Barcelona, Spain, told the Tech­nol­o­gy Re­view. Ser­ra­no said he’s tak­ing a job at the start­up, though he did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment made by End­points News. 

Al­tos has al­so re­port­ed­ly at­tract­ed the likes of No­bel lau­re­ate Shinya Ya­mana­ka, whose pi­o­neer­ing work led to the dis­cov­ery of Ya­mana­ka fac­tors, a group of pro­tein tran­scrip­tion fac­tors that play a role in the cre­ation of in­duced pluripo­tent stem cells. The ros­ter is al­so re­port­ed to in­clude the Salk In­sti­tute’s Juan Car­los Izpisúa Bel­monte, UCLA’s Steve Hor­vath, and cell re­pro­gram­ming ex­pert Wolf Reik, for­mer­ly of the UK’s Babra­ham In­sti­tute. They could not be reached for com­ment.

The well-doc­u­ment­ed (and in some cas­es ridiculed) an­ti-ag­ing field has gained mo­men­tum in re­cent years, with Ab­b­Vie and Google-backed Cal­i­co reach­ing a $1 bil­lion deal to dou­ble down on their part­ner­ship just a cou­ple of months ago. They now boast 20 ear­ly-stage pro­grams in the pipeline, with a fo­cus on im­muno-on­col­o­gy and neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion that “has yield­ed new in­sights in­to the bi­ol­o­gy of ag­ing.” Three of those pro­grams are now in the clin­ic.

This past spring, an­ti-ag­ing up­start BioAge Labs plucked a heart fail­ure drug from Am­gen’s dis­card pile to test in acute mus­cle in­di­ca­tions. The can­di­date, BGE-105 mim­ics the ef­fect of apelin, an en­doge­nous lig­and that boosts the pro­duc­tion of APJ, a re­cep­tor that tends to be down­reg­u­lat­ed as peo­ple grow old­er. Af­ter comb­ing through decades of health da­ta from thou­sands of healthy vol­un­teers, BioAge be­lieves the apelin/APJ path­way is one key mol­e­c­u­lar dri­ver of ag­ing.

“I think the con­cept is strong, but there is a lot of hype,” Ale­jan­dro Ocam­po, who used to work in Izpisúa Bel­monte’s Salk lab, told the Tech­nol­o­gy Re­view. “It’s far away from trans­la­tion.”

Bio­mark­er 'roadmap­s' and the fu­ture of can­cer R&D; Cur­tain rais­es on #AS­CO22; Pfiz­er, No­var­tis tack­le drug ac­cess; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

While this was not a week for earth-shattering news, there were certainly a lot of interesting tidbits. If you found this recap helpful, please recommend it to your friends and colleagues. We’ll see you on the other side of the long weekend.

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Keep­ing pres­sure on Am­gen, Mi­rati draws mixed re­views on lat­est cut of KRAS da­ta

As the close runner-up to Amgen’s Lumakras in the KRAS race, any data cut from Mirati’s adagrasib continues to draw scrutiny from analysts. And the latest batch of numbers from ASCO is a decidedly mixed bag.

While a quick comparison suggests that adagrasib spurred slightly more responses and led to a longer overall survival than Lumakras among a group of non-small cell lung cancer patients, its duration of response appears shorter and the safety profile continues to spark concern.

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Ann is one of ViiV Healthcare's newest spokespeople as the retired school administrator speaks up about her HIV status.

GSK's Vi­iV de­buts next evo­lu­tion in HIV med Dova­to cam­paign with new spokes­peo­ple and new mes­sage

When Ann saw the first TV commercials for HIV medicine Dovato, she didn’t see herself represented. So the 74-year-old retired school administrator who’s been living with HIV since 1998, reached out to GSK’s ViiV Healthcare and asked why not?

Now Ann is one of three people starring in ViiV’s latest Dovato campaign called “Detect This.” The next-step evolution in the branded campaign plays on the word “detect” — often used in describing HIV status under control as undetectable — but in this case, uses the word as a directive for people to understand they can use fewer medicines.

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Tran­si­tion to new Eu­ro­pean clin­i­cal tri­als in­fo sys­tem starts slow­ly

At the end of January, the European Medicines Agency officially launched its new clinical trials info system (CTIS), although the migration to the new platform has only really just begun, and sponsors have until the end of January 2023 before all initial trial applications must be submitted through CTIS.

Overall, 56 clinical trial applications have been submitted in CTIS during the first 3 months since the launch of the system on Jan. 31, according to new data posted by the EMA. By comparison, about 4,000 new trials are authorized each year across Europe.

Switzer­land to de­stroy over 600,000 ex­pired dos­es of Mod­er­na Covid vac­cine

As concerns related to uptake and distribution continue to linger, Switzerland is among the first countries that plans to destroy hundreds of thousands of expired and unused Covid-19 vaccine doses.

The European country said it plans to destroy more than 600,000 doses of Moderna’s Spikevax Covid-19 vaccine as the doses have reached their expiration date.

However, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that he’s in the process of throwing 30 million doses in the garbage, exclaiming, “We have a big demand problem.”

Nassim Usman, Catalyst Biosciences CEO

Af­ter $60M Ver­tex deal, group of Cat­a­lyst share­hold­ers claims biotech could’ve sold as­sets three years ago

Catalyst Biosciences was down to five employees in March, and the biotech needed to do something after two rounds of layoffs, a nixed collaboration and a culling of its hemophilia program.

In came Vertex, with $60 million to buy up the South San Francisco biotech’s preclinical complement drugs, which target the system that bridges the body’s innate and adaptive immune response and a class most known for Ultomiris and Soliris. The deal includes CB 2782-PEG, the dry AMD drug that Biogen no longer wanted in March.

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Lina Khan, FTC chair (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP Images)

Pile-on over PBMs con­tin­ues with FTC com­ments and a new bi­par­ti­san Sen­ate bill

More than 500 stakeholders sent comments to the FTC on whether the commission should look further into pharma middlemen, known as PBMs, with many of the commenters calling for more federal oversight.

Similar to the critical open comment period in a deadlocked FTC session last February, pharmacies and pharmacy groups are continuing to call out the lack of transparency among the top 3 PBMs, which control about 80% of the market.

Pharma brands are losing their shine with US consumers who are now thinking about the economy and inflation instead of Covid. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Phar­ma brands fade in an­nu­al Har­ris con­sumer vis­i­bil­i­ty poll: Mod­er­na drops off and Pfiz­er dips

As Covid-19 concerns are fading in the US, so is biopharma visibility. The annual Axios Harris Poll survey to determine and rank the 100 most top-of-mind brands in the US finds Moderna, which was No. 3 last year, not on the list at all for 2022, and Pfizer sinking 37 spots.

However, it’s not that Moderna or Pfizer did anything wrong, it’s just that Americans have moved on to other worries beyond Covid.

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HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra (Jacquelyn Martin/AP Images)

HHS fin­ish­es off Trump-era rule that would've erased ba­sic FDA regs with­out fre­quent re­views

HHS on Thursday finalized its decision to withdraw a rule, proposed just before former President Donald Trump left office, that would’ve caused thousands of HHS and FDA regulations to automatically expire if they weren’t reviewed within two years, and every 10 years thereafter.

The decision follows the filing of a lawsuit last March, in which several nonprofits alleged that the outgoing administration planted “a ticking timebomb” for HHS, essentially forcing it to devote an enormous amount of resources to the unprecedented and infeasible task of reviewing thousands of regulations regularly.